Work Permit Rules Need to be Revisited
As the Premier League become more and more international (something I personally object to, but a reality nonetheless) the UK Home Office continues to subject potential transfers who are not holders of a European Union passport to a highly subjective standard for whether or not they will be granted a work permit in the UK. As an American I have seen several potential moves quashed in recent years among my countrymen: DaMarcus Beasley to Southampton, Bobby Convey to Spurs, Greg Dalby to Preston and Josh Wolff to Derby County among others.The standard applied by the UK Home Office states that “A player must have played for his country in at least 75% of its competitive ‘A’ team matches he was available for selection, during the two years preceding the date of the application; and, The player’s country must be at or above 70th place in the official FIFA world rankings when averaged over the two years preceding the date of the application.”For example if you look at Major League Soccer’s top players a clear double standard would exist as to who is able to play in the Premier League. The reigning Superliga champions New England Revolution, boast Taylor Twellman a goal scoring threat unequaled in MLS over the last seven seasons. Twellman would, based on his sporadic call ups to the US National Team not be granted a UK work permit. However, Gonzalo Segaras of the Chicago Fire likely would be granted a work permit because of his repeated call ups to the Costa Rica National Team. Now Segaras is a nice player, but between Twellman and Segaras which player is likely to contribute more to the high standard of the English Premier League?Let’s take another example from Major League Soccer. DC United is the most accomplished club in the history of the league. Ivan Guerrero is United’s left flank midfielder who has played for three MLS clubs in ten months. He’s a journeyman by every standard, but due to Honduras presence in the Top 70 of FIFA’s rankings over the past two years and his repeated call ups to the National Team he’d receive a work permit. Last year’s MLS MVP, Luciano Emilio is Brazilian and has never been capped despite playing many years in the Bundesliga and Mexican First Division. No reasonable argument can be made that Guerrero is a better player for the PL than Emilio. After all it is much easier to be called into the Honduras squad than the Brazil squad.Looking at the Mexican Football league several similar cases would exist. Christian Gimenez an Argentine that has led Pachuca to several continental and domestic titles would not get a work permit while Daniel Osorno who flopped last year in MLS and is now playing in Primera A (the Mexican Second Division) would for the August window remain eligible to gain a work permit. Osorno may not receive the permit if he applied, but based on the criteria he’d have a much better shot than Gimenez.Last year’s bad publicity around the Home Office’s unwillingness to bend the rigid and subjective Work Permit rules to allow Manchester City to sign Nashat Akram who had captained his Iraqi side to an Asian Cup triumph brought some much needed scrutiny to the process. Going forward however, the entire system needs to be overhauled. Incorporate common sense into making decisions about what players are allowed to sign in the Premier League and what players cannot. While the 75% and top seventy rankings rule represent a good starting point for making decisions about players they should not be uniform standards that do not take into account player quality, testimonials from other footballers and beyond everything else common sense.